Yazan Halwani is a famous Lebanese street artist whose creations are spread all over Lebanon. His art honors Lebanese legends, such as Fairouz and Sabah, and promotes national cohesion.
Recently, he created his first monumental sculpture. Located in Beirut, The Memory Tree is the national monument for the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon that happened between 1915 and 1918. It resulted in the migration and death of more than half of the Lebanese population.
The renowned Lebanese author Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote a letter to Mary Haskell which read: "The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation and thousands are dying every single day.” Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote a poem entitled "Dead Are My People" which he dedicated to the victims.
The situation in Mount Lebanon was horrifying: bodies were piled in the streets, and people were eating animals. Some even resorted to cannibalism.
Unfortunately, there is not a single memorial that commemorates the victims of the Great Famine. That’s why Yazan designed the Memory Tree: to remember what happened and not repeat it.
“It is said that the Lebanese suffer from collective amnesia and that Beirut finds it difficult to recall its brutal past,” the artist said. This artwork will help people be aware of this brutal event that is barely covered in our textbooks.
The leaves of “The Memory Tree” are made of writings of many authors that lived during that time such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, Tawfik Yousef Awwad, Anbara Salam Al-Khalidi and many others.
“The Memory Tree” is officially the first national monument that commemorates the victims of the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon. It took us a long time to build one, but it’s better late than never!